What to Expect – Week 17

crucifixion

Today we start a new book, Judges! Isn’t it crazy that the Israelites went from strong leaders like Abraham, Moses, and Joshua to a system of judges and then to kings? To shed a little light on the concept of judges, it’s important to note that they weren’t just like the judges we think of today. They were looked to for leadership for the people. Many of them led the Israelites in military engagements and all of them were called to help the Israelites remain true to God’s law and commands. You may have heard of names like Samson or Gideon, these were some of the judges. And though this system of leading the Israelites didn’t last, it is an important part of their history.

This week we’ll also read through the majority of Luke’s account of the final week of Jesus’ life. Do your best not to skim it even though it’s our third account to read and we just heard it all during Holy Week. Let yourself recognize the anguish Jesus experienced as he was abandoned by his friends and rejected by the whole city. Notice the great symbolism of Jesus dying for the people during Passover, when they were celebrating another time God had saved them with the blood of another. This story should never become old hat. It is the story that changed history forever but it also changes each of our lives individually. Take the time this week to experience the greatest story ever told.

At the end of this week, we will have finished 9 books of the Bible! And these aren’t just any 9, they are 9 big, thick books that teach us a great deal of how we got to where we are today both through our initial history and through Jesus’ life, death, and ministry. We still have a lot of great stuff to read, but give yourself a high five for a job well done so far.

 

What to Expect – Week 16

as for me

First off, HAPPY EASTER!!! I hope you feel the love of Jesus throughout your day!

This week we have a number of noteworthy verses, passages, and events to read. For starters, in Joshua, there is a really powerful verse that we should all claim for our families. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Joshua has done everything possible to lead the Israelites towards faithfulness and yet they are easily tempted by the presumed glamour of other nations’ gods. So he draws a line in the sand and tells them all to choose who they’ll serve. But he doesn’t have to choose, because he already has.

And this week in Luke we begin reading his account of Holy Week, beginning with the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. As you read through Jesus’ last week of life (it will extend into next week’s reading) remember all that we just remembered and celebrated. I don’t want to spoil anything for next week, so I’ll just leave it at that.

We also get to see a cool way that Scripture all ties together. In Friday’s psalm, the psalmist reminds us of the covenant God made with David and how God promised that David’s line would be on the throne forever. As was affirmed in Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ line runs directly from David. When Jesus dies and resurrects, which we know he’s about to do, he becomes the everlasting king. David’s line truly does remain on the throne forever.

What to Expect – Week 14

jerusalem

Do you know what can make a decision clear quicker than anything? Knowing the consequences of your decision before you make it. You may notice a strong emphasis in this week’s Deuteronomy readings on blessings and curses. Basically, through Moses, God gives the Israelites a scenario and explains that they can choose blessings or curses. One decision leads them down one path and the other down a different path. Whether they didn’t believe him, doubted the severity, or the temptation was just too strong, they unfortunately frequently chose curses. Just to give you a little cheat sheet – faithfulness to God leads to blessings; being unfaithful leads to curses. It’s pretty simple overall.

Starting today, and for the rest of our time in Luke, Jesus is definitively headed toward the cross. In the first verse of today’s Luke reading it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Throughout the rest of our readings until Palm Sunday, we will read over and over that he is headed to Jerusalem. He know his earthly ministry would end and his purpose would be fulfilled in Jerusalem with his death and resurrection.

This week, as we finish up Lent and prepare for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, take time to thank Jesus for his resolute dedication to heading towards the cross.

What to Expect – Week 13

oil and water

A theme you may have noticed, which will be prevalent this week, is that God did not want the Israelites to associate with other people groups in any significant way. To us this may seem exclusive and even hateful towards those people. Entire people groups were wiped out in order to avoid these associations. But these people groups weren’t victims of McCarthyism. God wasn’t accusing or attacking these people without substantial evidence. We see, over and over, the Israelites engaging with other nations and beginning to take on their customs and even worship their gods. God knew the Israelites would be easily swayed and would lose their loyalty to him. Setting the Israelites apart was a way of protecting them.

This week’s Luke readings will definitely keep you engaged with parables, healings, and tons more! Two cool things to look for and think about for a while are:

1) Peter’s recognition and admission of Jesus as the Messiah – Peter’s admission is the first of any of Jesus’ followers. People were still saying he might be Elijah or some other prophet, and obviously many people were thinking he was a heretic. Peter, as he tended to do, steps out in faith and declares Jesus’ identity.

2) Jesus telling a woman that her faith has healed her – Throughout Scripture there are different explanations of why people are healed. Some just seem to be miracles from God without any other explanation. Some are based on the faith of someone else asking for a friend or loved one and others, like the healing we’ll read about on Thursday, are attributed to the faith of the person healed. What do you notice as the difference between the healings? Is there any? If so, why?

Finally, some of our Psalms this week are very raw. They are filled with rage and malice and can be jarring to us. Try to remember that these Psalms are not God talking, but a human, like you and me. This is not necessarily something to model ourselves after, but to remind us that God knows us at our best and worst, and we are sinful.

Keep up the good reading! You’re doing great!!

What to Expect – Week 12

Jesus life

Why was Jesus important? Was it solely for him to come and die for our sins?

Obviously, that act of self-sacrifice was crucial. Jesus died, as the sinless Son of God, so that we could live eternally. This week’s readings will serve as a game show host or infomercial announcer saying, “But wait, there’s more!”

Jesus’ life mattered too! In Luke 4, Jesus gives his first sermon, which spells out his purpose for coming to the earth. He maps out his ministry basing it on a passage from Isaiah saying he was here to set captives free, give sight to the blind, etc. Then, in the rest of our Luke readings he shows us how we’re supposed to live, which, by no coincidence, is perfectly in line with his purpose for his own ministry.

This week we will also transition from Numbers to Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a type of farewell speech for Moses. He has led the Israelites for 40 years through a variety of highs and lows and now will be handing over the reigns. As we transition away from Moses, be prepared for the Israelites to begin to flounder through judges, good and bad kings, and a variety of successes and failures.

It seems that we’re starting a new book almost every week these days. I hope that is great encouragement for you to continue plugging away day by day. We’re doing great!! Keep it up!

What to Expect – Week 11

donkey

Do you ever long for something you used to complain about? Like naps as little kids, now we would die for one in the middle of a long afternoon! In this week’s Numbers readings, the Israelites continue to long for what they begged to get out of. Their wanderings in the desert prove difficult and they think they’d rather be back in Egypt. You’ll also hear a talking donkey, learn the purpose of the Levites, and much more!

This week we also start a new gospel! Luke begins his gospel by explaining that he will provide an orderly, organized account of Jesus’ life and ministry. You’ll recognize his birth narrative from every Christmas Eve service you’ve ever been to. But you may never have noticed that there’s something different from the birth narrative in Matthew. Matthew focuses more on Joseph’s perspective while Luke focuses more on Mary’s.

Some other cool fun facts about Luke:

  • Luke also wrote Acts, which we’ll read after John.
  • Luke is known for its wide array of Jesus’ parables. Parables are found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but Luke has the most.
  • In Luke, women play a larger role than in any other gospel.
  • Luke contains both Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s song – both beautiful praise pieces.

Enjoy this week! We’re making great progress! This is the 9th book we’ve started, so we’re doing great!!

What to Expect – Week 10

I’m not going to lie to you, this week’s Numbers readings are filled with God giving the Israelites a chance, the Israelites complaining about what they’ve been given or what they think they should have been given, and the Israelites longing to return to their slavery in Egypt. Two mistakes we make when reading about the Israelites are to:

  1. Judge them too harshly – What idiots these folks are! They have access to the living God and yet they fail, complain, and lack trust. Get it together, Israel. Now that I have that out there…don’t we do the exact same thing? Don’t we also make the same mistakes over and over? Don’t we fall into the same sin traps?
  2. Assume God is mean – God gives the Israelites laws and covenants to protect them from the things that might harm them. The Israelites break the laws and forget their covenants and thus opening themselves up for consequences and attack. God does not desire for them to have these consequences. He set them up to never have to face them.

This week, the first full week of Lent, we also read another account of Jesus’ last week of life. It is a familiar story and yet should never become old hat. Let yourself imagine what he felt, what you would have thought and felt if you were a believer at that time, and how the sequence of events would have effected your faith.

One of our psalms this week is also particularly appropriate for this season. On Wednesday, note that Psalm 51 was written when David had been confronted by Nathan with his sin. It is filled with heartfelt repentance and can help us repent of our sins.

Happy reading! Let God’s Word bless your week!

What to Expect – Week 9

There’s a lot to look forward to this week! Finishing Leviticus and starting Numbers, getting into some of Marks parables, and some beautiful psalms that are relatable and noteworthy, and, of course, more wisdom and folly.

There are still a few significant laws to read through in Leviticus, but don’t be deterred! Think of God’s law like bumpers on a bowling lane. The laws keep you in the area that’s good for you and benefits the overall goal. For instance, this week, there’s a law teaching a certain way to reap your harvest. It may seem irrelevant to us, or could be construed as bossy or restrictive, but it actually was designed as an ancient way of feeding the poor. You just got bumped back in the lane.

In Mark, this week, we get to start delving into parables – Jesus’ somewhat cryptic stories that, when understood, help explain the nature and kingdom of God. We also continue through a number of miracle stories. One, in particular, depicts the disciples not being able to heal because of their lack of faith. Jesus steps in and completes the healing. Isn’t it comforting that in this story, as well as others like Peter walking on the water, when our faith falls short, Jesus steps in and fills the gap? I wonder what faith gaps of mine he’s filling?

Finally, be encouraged! After this week, we will have completed 4 books of the Bible. That may sound small considering there are 66 total, but a lot of them are very short and you’ve already learned a huge chunk of the history of how we got where we are today. You’re doing great!!

What to Expect – Week 8

Leviticus and Revelation are probably the two most feared books of the Bible. Leviticus is full of scary sounding practices and pages and pages of laborious details.

But!

The practices and details were carefully spelled out in order to protect God’s people. Just like we’re willing to go to 8 hours of school for 12 years because we know it’s for our good, the ancient Israelites understood the importance of ritual cleansings and animal sacrifices. True, we no longer need to offer a grain offering for this and a sin offering for that, but we do need to know the specificity with which God will go to ensure he can be in relationship with us.

Also in our reading this week, you’ll go from the super specific to the super cryptic. This week, in Mark, Jesus will dive into a number of parables. Parables are stories that relate something of God to something familiar. Most of the parables were agricultural in nature, which isn’t very familiar to us but was to the ancient Jews. What if, instead of a mustard seed, Jesus described the kingdom of God like compounding interest or an artificial intelligence robot? It’s something that starts small but grows quickly. It’s something we can relate to and it’s an opportunity to see God’s truths in a new light.

So whether super specific or cryptic, this week’s reading will guide you closer to the truths of who God is and how much he wants to be in relationship with us.

What to Expect – Week 7

No, a different Mark.

marky mark.jpeg

I’m not sure this is where the phrase originates, but it seems that “the devil is in the details” is appropriate when reading the explicit instructions for creating the tabernacle. Often we want to follow God, but we prefer to cut corners and take the easier route or the convenient option. But God values our obedience – even in the smallest of details.

Another major happening this week is we’re beginning a new gospel – Mark!! Woohoo!! Bring it! Mark is the shortest of the four gospels and is believed to have been the first one written. You’ll notice that Mark leaves out a lot of details and descriptors the others include. Mark was most likely writing this hurriedly around 70 A.D. when Jerusalem, and specifically the temple, were being destroyed by the Romans. Mark had to quickly get an account of Jesus’ life out there so his words and actions would not be forgotten.

Here are a couple of things to watch for in Mark:

  • There is no birth narrative – Jesus comes on the scene as an adult. Case and point: some major details are omitted.
  • There is a heavy emphasis on miracles – look for series’ of miracles one right after another. Mark believed this aspect of Jesus would be significant to his hearers.
  • There is also a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ interactions with the demonic. Mark puts a heavier emphasis here than other gospels.
  • Mark, like Matthew, puts a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ struggles with religious leaders.
  • Mark emphasizes how dense the disciples are in picking up what Jesus is putting down. They continually “don’t get it”.